Han Jiang Ancestral Temple is a Chinese temple built by the Teochew community in Penang in 1867 and is run by the Penang Teochew Association. It was completed in 1870 and was first named as the Teochew Kongsi. It is the only Teochew-style temple in George Town. Located in Chulia Street, it is in close proximity to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Masjid Kapitan Keling.
What can you see inside the temple? Han Jiang Ancestral Temple is divided into 3 sections – the courtyard, middle hall and rear hall. Each has different features and purpose. Upon entering through the main doors, you will be welcomed by stone plaques inscribed with Chinese characters which translates to “Han Jiang Ancestral Temple” on one side and “Mutual Prosperity for the Nine Beautiful Counties” on the other. You can also read ancient stories inscribed in beams and on carvings on the walls.
The next section is the central courtyard with an almost unobstructed view of the sky. The middle hall enshrines the Supreme Lord of North Pole, a major Taoist deity of the Teochews. This deity is very popularly visited by its devotees especially during Chap Goh Meh.
Walking to the rear hall, you will walk through the Arched Doors of Etiquette. These doors lead to the altars with rows of the tablets of Teochew ancestors.
Taoists give importance to ancestral worship; it shows their acknowledgment of the significance of history in shaping their present and future and recognises the importance of the past cultures. The preservation of ancestrail worship is not just ornamental or sentimental; it recognises the value of the past as a learning and uses history to encourage and strengthen the faith of future generations.
The Teochew Kongsi is the most exquisite illustration of Teochew architecture in present day George Town. It is evident from the moment you step into the temple – the gigantic door with images of Gods with golden helmets, the elaborate sculptures on the walls, roof and ceiling and the ultramodern fibre optics lightings that showcase the impressive ornate details of the building.
The original design of the temple was built in the “si dian jing” style meaning four-point gold wherein the gables of the roofs formed a square surrounding the small central courtyard. As the Teochew community thrived, they allocated funds to create an intricate Chinese-style gated building.
Han Jiang Ancestral Temple was first established in 1885 when six immigrants bought a house at 381 Beach Street for lodging of newly arrived Teochews. They later moved to its current location in Chulia Street and pioneered the Teochew Kongsi. In the early 20th century, the temple was also used as a school, the Han Jiang School, which is now relocated to Air Itam Road.
In 1935 the temple’s name was changed to Han Jiang Ancestral Temple.
Since its foundation, Han Jiang Ancestral Temple has been refurbished thrice. The last restoration process costed RM1.5 million and took almost 2 years to complete. Master craftsmen from China were even flown in to carry out the restoration works. But all efforts were worth it as the ancestral temple was awarded by UNESCO the Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conversation in 2006. Han Jiang Ancestral Temple is just the second historical structure bestowed that honour.
The Han Jian Ancestral Temple is located in the heart of the UNESCO-listed George Town. To get here, walk along Chulia Street, the temple is on the left side of the road, just right in front of Queen Street.